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:: Tuesday, February 25, 2003 ::

An Attempt at Hesychia

The priest at my parish is leading a group of interested people in the study of hesychia this Lent. Every Friday, after the Presanctified Liturgy, we will be reading material from the Fathers on prayer (and especially on the "prayer of the heart)." Then we will sit in silence together in the church for 30 minutes.

It should prove to be a challenging time! I remember staying at a Trappist monastery during my college days and sitting with the monks in their "silence room" for 30 minutes. It was an intense experience! The "silence room" at the monastery was all windows and overlooked a beautiful forest. The monks sat about 5 feet apart from one another and each had their own way of sitting or kneeling. I'll never forget the sheer depth and expansiveness of that 30 minutes of silence. And, in a strange way, there was a closeness between those who participated that seemed to have no need of words to build it up or to keep it alive. As Pascal wrote, all of the evils of the world can be attributed to the fact that men can't sit still in a room by themselves for 30 minutes!

I hope to use this small amount of silent prayer and hesycia to combat the thoughts and passions that keep me from running the race. Huw and Clifton have both recently posted about the Orthodox way of "keeping every thought captive for Christ." (2 Cor 10:5). Lord willing, this Lent will be a time of victory over the passions and those deadly thoughts that so ravage us.

Here are some quotes from Vladimir Lossky on this subject-- From his book "The Way of Union," The Mystical Theology of the
Eastern Church"

"The heart must always be ardent. The spirit must remain calm. It is the
spirit which is the guardian of the heart. The heart is the center of the
human being, the root of the "active" faculties, of the intellect and of the
will, and the point from which the whole of the spiritual life proceeds, and
upon which it converges. Source of all intellectual and spiritual activity,
the heart, according to St. Macarius of Egypt, is a "workshop of justice and
injustice. It is a vessel which contains all the vices, but where at the
same time, "God, the angels, life and the Kingdom, light and the apostles,
and the treasures of grace are to be found. Where grace fills the pastures
of the heart, it reigns over all the parts and the thoughts: for there
inhabit the intelligence and the thoughts of the soul." In this way grace
passes by way of the heart into the whole of man�s nature. (pp. 200-201)

There is a physical aspect involved (in hesychia) �certain procedures in
regard to the control of breathing, the position of the body during prayer,
the rhythm of prayer � but this exterior discipline has only one object in
view: that of concentration� (p.210)

Evagrius states: "In your longing to see the face of the Father in heaven,
never try to see any shape or form when you are praying." �in freeing itself
completely from all conceptualization of the godhead, "the spirit receives
into itself the characteristics of the image of God, and becomes clothed with
the ineffable beauty of the likeness of the Lord" according to St. Mark the
Hermit. (pp. 211-212)

Union with God�is accomplished in persons by the co-operation of the Holy
Spirit and our freedom. When St. Seraphim of Sarov was asked if the
Christians of his own day lacked any of the conditions necessary to produce
the same fruits of sanctity which had been so abundant in the past, he
replied: there is one condition only lacking � a firm resolve. (p.216)

:: Karl :: 11:49:00 AM [Link] ::

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